Debi Gliori: The Boy and the Moonimal

Illustrated by the author

Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books, UK, 2021

This is a story about Moonimal, a little blue rabbit with three floppy ears, who is found one day on a shelf inside a shop full of wonderful knick-knacks. The Boy and Moonimal are inseparable. They have exploring adventures together, they pretend to be doctor and patient, and even fly into space and back again in their cardboard rocket. It feels like they will be together forever.

One day, deep in the woods, with autumnal leaves littering the ground, the young Boy trips, breaks his glasses and can’t find his beloved blue rabbit anywhere. Turning the page, Moonimal begins to tell the tale of what happens next.

Moonimal waits and waits, hoping to be found again. Instead, some woodland rabbits, who are small and grey, with two floppy ears each, find Moonimal and take him back to their underground burrows. Time passes.

In a meadow one day, Moonimal gets snatched up by a hunting owl and dropped into a cold rushing river. Swept away by the strong currents, Moonimal is found downstream by grazing deer and he stays with the herd for many more years.

Until one day, danger comes again! A dog appears suddenly, scattering the reindeer, and in their haste to flee, Moonimal gets left behind. The dog proudly picks up Moonimal in his jaw to present to his owner. Could this be the end, or has the story come full circle?

This is a gently crafted story of hope when all seems lost. Something similar happened to us many years ago when our two-year-old daughter lost her favourite teddy. We looked everywhere for it. We asked everyone we knew to look for it. I even tried to buy a new one, ringing up stores and asking friends and family to keep searching. I remember days and nights full of tears and longing. Time passed, the ache of loss eased, and my daughter discovered other favourite toys. But do you know what? A friend turned up on our doorstep about six months later, with the lost teddy in her hands!

I expected my daughter to be overjoyed, and she was, but there was another overriding emotion, cautious reserve. If teddy was lost once, then he could be lost again. It was sad to see this understanding in my daughter’s eyes, because sometimes in life, that’s just the way it is. It was my daughter’s first experience of loss and grief, sadly not the last, and one of the many lessons to learn in life.

I can highly recommend this picture for children 3-6 years and below are more suggestions for picture books which explore the experience of losing a beloved toy:

The Velveteen Rabbit
by Margery Williams
Illustrated by Sarah Massini

Little Bear Lost by Jane Hissey

Good Dog by Cori Doerrfeld

The Lost Toys by Irina Hale

Nothing by Mick Inkpen

Clown by Quentin Blake

The Lost Property Office
by Emily Rand

Arno and his Horse by Jane Godwin Illustrated by Felicita Sala

Red Ted and the Lost Things
by Michael Rosen
Illustrated by Joel Stewart

Dogger by Shirley Hughes

The Everywhere Bear
by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Rebecca Cob

Where Are You, Blue Kangaroo?
by Emma Chichester Clark

Lost in Little Bear’s Room
by Else Holmelund Minarik Illustrated by David T. Wenzel

The Sea Saw by Tom Percival

Float by Daniel Miyares

Elmer and the Lost Teddy
by David McKee

This is the Bear and the Scary Night by Sarah Hayes
Illustrated by Helen Craig

Where’s Teddy? by Rod Campbell

Where’s My Teddy?
by Jez Alborough

Eve and Elly by Mike Dumbleton Illustrated by Laura Wood

Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems

Olivia and the Missing Toy
by Ian Falconer

I Lost My Bear by Jules Feiffer

The Teddy Bear by David McPhail

Bun Bun Button by Patricia Polacco

Shirley Hughes: Dogger’s Christmas

Illustrated by the author

Published by The Bodley Head, Penguin Random House, 2020

“Dogger has become something of a celebrity. He was put in a glass box, on tour, at the Ashmolean in Oxford and Liverpool Walker Art Gallery. He has one ear flopped down as it should be, and another was cocked up from years of cuddling and has remained that way after 60 years. His eyes are rather far apart, which makes him especially endearing. He’s retired from the celeb circuit now, living in a shoebox, only coming out for the occasional photoshoot.” – The Guardian, Dec 22, 2019

If you have picked up this book and been enthralled by the story, then make sure you go back to the beginning and read Dogger, also written by Shirley Hughes, way back in 1977. This Christmas sequel, released last year, has been written and illustrated by the same lady at the amazing age of 92. The wonder is that the children Bella, Dave and Joe are still much the same age as they were when the first story was conceived over 40 years ago, and life in this new story is much the same as it was then. It’s a time I remember in my childhood, when Christmas lists were posted up the chimney, paper decorations were made for the tree, and hand made cards were given with love.

Dogger is Dave’s favourite toy dog, and almost as old as Dave himself. He is brown and small, with one ear up and the other ear down, and Dave’s constant companion. Dogger has been lost before and Bella, Dave’s big sister, saved the day. As Christmas approaches in this story, Mum takes Bella and Dave to the shops and they very wisely leave Dogger at home, waiting for their return sitting on the windowsill. Nobody wants the stress and trauma of losing Dogger again!

Christmas arrives and we are enveloped in all the familiar traditions of the day, with stockings full of presents, wrapping paper strewn everywhere, grandparents joining the celebrations and a special visit to a lonesome neighbour. The strength of family bonds, the joy of being together and sharing in the deeper meaning of the nativity is expressed so beautifully in text and illustrations.

It’s not until the end of the day, when mum and dad are cleaning up, and all the children are asleep at last, that a wail is heard. It’s Dave and he wants Dogger, but where is he? It seems that this time, Dogger is truly lost. Can Bella save the day again with her kindness, ingenuity and empathy?

This is a wonderful story about family, love, loss and hope. A story that keeps reminding us about the important things in life and caring for others. I can highly recommend it for children 4 years and up to 104 years, after all, it was written by a 92 year old lady, with enough life experience to share her wisdom with everyone.

Below are more of my favourite stories by Shirley Hughes:

Dogger

Don’t Want To Go!

Moving Molly

Daisy Saves The Day

Bobbo Goes To School

Jonadab and Rita

Alfie Gives a Hand

Alfie Gets in First

Angel on the Roof

Lucy & Tom: At the Seaside

The Alfie and Annie Rose Storybook

Let’s Join In: A First Book of Bedtime Stories

Up and Up

My First ABC

My First 1 2 3

Time For Tea: A First
Book of Cookery

Snow In The Garden: A First
Book of Christmas

Daisy Hirst: I Like Trains

Illustrated by the author

Published by Walker Books, London, 2020

Trains. They are big and noisy. They come and go. They take us to new places and return us home again. Boom gates announce their arrival and the ding-dong signals tell everyone to keep clear of the tracks. Trains even make a sound that is unique to them as they ride the tracks, chuff, chuff, chuffing along. No wonder trains are fascinating for little ones.

Daisy Hirst has written a wonderfully simple yet comprehensive story about Small Dog and his love of trains. Big text, few words, clean images on a white background all combine to make this a very accessible story for pre-schoolers.

In the story, we see Small dog playing with his own train set, setting up some of his toy animals as passengers as they ride the tracks. Small Dog even imagines himself as a conductor of his own train, made with cardboard boxes. Books teach him more about trains, there are so many different types: freight trains, bullet trains and steam trains.

But best of all is going to the station and riding the train with Mum. Buying the tickets, finding the platform, taking a seat by the window and watching the scenery fly past and arriving finally to see Grandma waiting on the platform.

This a warm, feel good story that encapsulates the wonder of trains with the joy of discovery and the security of family. I can highly recommend it for children 2 -4 years and below there are more suggestions about some of my favourite picture books which feature trains. All aboard!

Dog on a Train by
Kate Prendergast
Trains Go by
Steve Light
That’s Not My Train by
Fiona Watt
Mr Nick’s Knitting by
Margaret Wild
Illustrated by
Dee Huxley
The Little Train by
Graham Greene
Illustrated by
Edward Ardizzone
James the Red Engine
by Rev. W. Awdry
Freight Train by
Donald Crews
Hamish Takes the Train
by Daisy Hirst